When LaFayette Police Department Capt. Stacey Meeks entered Francis Middleton's house on Saturday evening, he assumed that he had walked into a crime scene.
"We really thought initially that it was a possible homicide," Meeks said. He cited an incision on the left side of Middleton's chest that could have been a knife wound, the large amounts of blood that covered the room and the strewn furniture as some of the signs that led investigators to consider homicide.
But further investigation led authorities to the conclusion that Middleton died of natural causes.
An autopsy conducted at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation headquarters in Atlanta found that Middleton had esophageal varices, which is the medical term used to describe enlarged veins in the lower part of the esophagus. Esophageal varices typically occur in people with severe liver disease, which Middleton reportedly had, according to Meeks.
The enlarged veins in Middleton's esophagus ruptured, according to the autopsy report.
"Even on the operating table, there is not much that can be done to save someone from this," Meeks said.
Blood from the ruptured veins spread over the living room where Middleton's body was found on the floor, according to Meeks.
"We spared no expense investigating the scene," he said. "Investigators spent eight hours processing the scene and are glad that the results came back that her death was from natural causes for her family and community's sake."
The funeral is today at 2 p.m. at Wilson Funeral Home in LaFayette, Ga. Middleton's family requested that LaFayette police officers be pallbearers.
Contact staff writer Kendi Anderson at kendi.anderson@timesfree press.com or at 423-757-6592.